Anti-Racist Cooperative Movement
USACYC is shedding light on the overall image and vibe that the label “cooperative” carries with the general public. In many communities, due to the visibility of natural food cooperatives, we recognize that there is a perception that cooperatives are white, class exclusive, out of touch with both communities of color and working class communities, and as having a moral superiority complex. We will not conform to these preconceived notions of what a cooperative is; instead we wholeheartedly challenge them and invite our fellow institutions to do the same. We know that effectively challenging this perception and building an inclusive movement means building institutions and practices that are anti-racist.
Our campaign was ignited by an occurrence at an annual conference convening the natural food cooperatives throughout the country (CCMA). During CCMA, our national trade association (National Cooperative Business Association, NCBA) posted photos on social media depicting their organizational leadership (i.e. staff leadership of our national cooperative movement) wearing fake prison uniforms, funny glasses/noses, and mock mugshot signs stating what “crimes” they had committed to get “arrested” – e.g. “Ate a GMO.” This demonstrated so clearly how utterly out of touch our movement leadership and natural food cooperative community are with the lived realities of communities of color, low-income communities, and other disenfranchised peoples. In response and with the help of many fellow cooperators, USACYC drafted and circulated this letter addressing the incident; linking educational resources from groups like the NAACP, critiquing the carelessness and poor leadership demonstrated, and called for those involved to reflect on and apologize for their actions. Since the event, the CEO of the NCBA issued a letter of apology sent out via email. While this is a step in the right direction, the work is far from done. USACYC is actively engaged in strategizing and planning for how to continue building a truly anti-racist cooperative movement through education, action, and accountability